The reader may be forgiven for thinking the poems in crawlspace, John Pass’ 2011 collection, claustrophobic and dark. Surprisingly, then, one flips from one page to the next and discovers moods both light and confident, heavy with knowledge yet unwilling to submit to philosophical defeat. And doubly surprising since his recent book, Stumbling In The Bloom, became bogged down in muddy walks, muted colours, and pointless digressions.
Part of the cause for improvement is in the lively treatment of similar subject matter. Largely missing (with a couple of exceptions) are the bloated nature reveries that draped over skin and soul like muggy, interminable spring days. In their place are specific anecdotes that use purposeful comparisons well, as in “Sparrows”, where the rhythmic vitality of “Trapped, they loop and weave their ways among the fixtures” eventually transitions into Pass’ penchant for reflection, though instead of portentous gravity, we’re treated to a brisk challenge and playful metamorphosis with “A realist in our midst? Busy denizen, at home in our dark//densities, our nesting power, while we lean/and crane our necks ... “.
Pass is still beset by personal crawlspaces of the heart where the reader is squeezed out, as in the banal ruminations of “Say No More” with its robotic opening and closing “I’ve been walking, walking, walking,/walking. A marginal distracted pacing” and “outpacing/the enormous stasis of my thought.” But he’s far more engaged with the particularities of his travels in crawlspace, and the woe-is-me-in-this-bad-weather chaff is less conspicuous than in his GovGen-winning volume.